Harold B. Lee 1899–1973


During the time Harold Bingham Lee was president of the Church (July 7, 1972–December 26, 1973) and following his death, many stories were told and written about his life and excerpts from his talks and writings quoted. Here we learn how this “giant of a man” felt about books as a boy.

The first book I ever owned came to me on the heels of near tragedy. It was at a community Christmas tree party in our little country town of Clifton in Idaho. The huge tree lighted with hundreds of burning candles … set an ideal stage for that which followed. Before our horrified gaze Santa caught fire and as he ran frantically out through a rear exit he swept along with him trimmings, candles, presents, and even a part of the tree itself. …

I returned home … disconsolate and dejected because no gift was on the tree for me. The next day from out of the ruins of the fire a book, half burned, was found with my name in it. That book was Tom, the Bootblack, by Horatio Alger, Jr.

Biographies and stories of the lives of people who achieved success always made interesting reading and aided me in fancy to soar away beyond the close confines of a routine rural life to satisfy the longing for adventure that I suppose every normal boy has.

In those earlier days my fondness for this type of reading led me to adopt as my favorite the American Magazine, which … featured human-interest stories. … How my imagination was fired by the reading of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. … Little did I realize then that I would live to see his fantastic undersea ship become a reality in the modern submarine and a tremendous factor in a great world war.

Living as a boy at the foot of a great mountain in a valley surrounded by mountains, it was probably to be expected that stories of the outdoors and of animals were particularly appealing. I read every book of Ernest Thompson Seton’s I could get my hands on.

As a man Harold B. Lee counseled the youth of the Church, “Seek out of the best books ‘all that has been revealed’ and be guided in your search for the truth … and thus make your lives balanced and complete.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Howard Boughner